Turbulent Waters/Comments at Boise River Park

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The Boise River Park overflows with kayakers and surfers, all waiting for their opportunity to get on the wave. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The Boise River Park overflows with kayakers and surfers, all waiting for their opportunity to get on the wave.


There's no stated schedule, but most of the Boise River Park users understand that on Mondays and Wednesdays, the wave feature is best for surfers, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are suited for kayakers. On the other days, Boise Parks and Recreation's wave technicians try to produce a hybrid wave by adjusting the panels in the river.

But right now, it's not going so well.

"I thought Tuesday was supposed to be hole day," posted paddler Allison Dwyer on the Boise River Park's Facebook page June 10. "Can you please explain why you have an absolutely pathetic hole but are able to make a nice wave for your surfer buddies... on hole night?"

A hole is a popular water feature among kayakers that lets them surf their short playboats in the river, but a  wave works better for surfers. Seeing her complaint, many other kayakers in the area chimed in on the comment thread.

"I'm just going to say it.. This is absolute bullcrap!!" wrote paddler Micah Kneidl. "I'm calling you out wave masters ... I'm beginning to wonder if you are abusing your power for the sake of being 'powerful.' Either way the city should hear the overwhelming number of complaints and consider hiring somebody that is willing to do the job right... This is totally ridiculous. What are you guys going to do about it?"

Others made calls that the recently hired wave technician, who's got more experience in surfing than kayaking, is shaping the wave for his "friend's interests," even on days meant for kayak features.

But Paul Schoenfelder, recreation manager for Boise Parks and Recreation, said that's not the case.

"What we're experiencing this year is a lot of fluctuations in the water flows and it's been hard to get into the rhythm," he said. "We're also training some new staffers."

More than that, Schoenfelder said the wave is adjustable, "but not infinitely so. It's hard to make all user groups happy all the time."

Especially when the river is flowing at 1,450 cubic feet per second, almost twice as high as usual. It's jumped 700 cfs in the last week alone. Schoenfelder said the city has two wave technicians, one with more experience surfing, and one with more experience in a kayak. He said their hours are posted at the wave, to encourage dialogue between the users and the city, and to make the optimal adjustments using the flow they've got. 

"You don't see people who are enjoying themselves being as vocal," Schoenfelder said. "Last year, we were hearing a lot [of complaints] from the surfing community."

On her Facebook post, Dwyer made another jab at the Boise River Park, though.

"I don't understand how to expect to get funding if you continue to disregard kayakers," she wrote. "You will need the kayak community's support to ever get the funds to complete the next phases and with how things have been going ... you are quickly going to lose our support and respect. Please hold yourself accountable and follow the schedule. Tuesday is hole day." 

The city of Boise has paid for the planning of the next two phases of the Boise River Park, which will include a few more wave features—$250,000. The rest of the project will be paid for through private donations and it's expected to cost $7.3 million. 

Dwyer added that, "if this adjustable wave shaper can't handle a relatively small fluctuation in flows, then let's scrap the next phases because we are wasting our money on this technology."

Schoenfelder said the next waves will be built with a completely different model, though. The features will be fixed, instead of adjustable. He said his wave technicians are working with kayakers now to adjust the wave in a way that benefits the paddlers.


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